Abandonment: A Common Misconception in Divorce

Abandonment: A Common Misconception in Divorce

In Alabama, there are several different grounds upon which someone may file for divorce. They fall into two categories: fault and no-fault. While no-fault means that neither party bears the blame for the divorce, fault mean that the dissolution of the marriage is caused by the conduct of one of the parties.

Spousal abandonment is one of the three types of “fault” grounds.

What Is Marital or Spousal Abandonment?

In Alabama, a continuous absence from the marriage “bed and board” is considered voluntary abandonment. This means that one spouse leaves without the intent of returning. This person has left their spouse and severed all ties and responsibility – including related financial obligations – without good reason.

What Is Considered Marital Abandonment?

Legally, an individual is required to take care of an ailing dependent spouse or any minor children. If the spouse leaves the family and is unreachable or refuses to take care of the family financially, this can be considered criminal spousal abandonment.

In order to prove abandonment, the abandoned spouse must use direct or constructive evidence to demonstrate their claim. The spouse claiming abandonment must prove that the couple kept separate residences and didn’t engage in marital relations for a required period, usually a year.

Misconceptions About Abandonment in Divorce

Cases in which one spouse claims abandonment can be complicated. There are many different situations and factors involved from both sides that prompted the abandonment.

  • Separation – Legal separation is not the same as abandonment. When one spouse moves into another residence before a divorce but continues to honor their family obligations and financial obligations, it is not considered abandonment. Likewise, it is not considered abandonment when a spouse leaves the marital home after an argument but returns home after days or weeks. Abandonment is desertion for no reason that exceeds a specific length of time, usually a year.
  • Child support – A parent has a legal obligation to support their children. When one parent does not live up to this obligation, the abandoned parent can petition the court for sole custody of the children and termination of the spouse’s parental rights. The abandoned parent must prove that the child has been abandoned, abused, or neglected. Once this happens, the court can terminate parental rights of the abandoning spouse, which also terminates that person’s responsibility for the child’s financial support.
  • Domestic abuse – A situation in which a person flees an abusive partner in a crisis is not the same as abandonment.
  • Relocation – It is not considered abandonment if a spouse refuses to relocate if their spouse is transferred through work.
  • Property rights – When the abandoning spouse vacates a shared residence, they give up the right to make decisions about any abandoned personal or real property. The abandoned spouse still retains access to the home. If the abandoned spouse has been paying all the mortgage payments and all the bills, they may have a persuasive case that the other spouse forfeited all equity rights to the marital property.

How Can New Beginnings Family Law Help Me?

If you are seeking a divorce or if your spouse is seeking to divorce you, you undoubtedly have many questions. The Huntsville divorce lawyers of New Beginnings Family Law are here to help you understand your rights and explain the complex legal issues at stake, including abandonment.

If you are seeking to prove abandonment, you will require the assistance of an experienced divorce attorney to gather and present ample evidence in court to support your case. If your spouse is claiming abandonment, we’ll stand by you and help you fight back.

Our experienced family lawyers are ready to help, so contact us now to schedule a confidential consultation.

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